By Toshiko Hirata
Translated by Spencer Thurlow
Translated by Eric E. Hyett
A profound collection of poetry from Japanese poet Hirata, expounding on readership and everyday life.
Publication Date: January 23, 2024
American readers’ awareness of contemporary Japan, through literature and poetry, has increased in recent decades, but many are still left with little means of understanding the everyday cultural phenomena that makes Japanese culture what it is. Hirata uses her poems to genuinely investigate aspects of Japanese culture in a way that makes it easy for the reader to understand, and she has an extraordinary way of breaking down a normal event, like seeing an old man riding a bicycle in a park, into a journey that elucidates something profound. Her poems gain prosody while keeping a core narrative aspect which is colored with her own dark and warm artistic lens. Every poem in Is It Poetry? helps the reader understand and think about what is to be cherished, feared, loved, and what is not.
Hirata Toshiko is one of Japan’s best-known contemporary poets, as well as a renowned playwright and author of seventeen novels. She is associated with the ‘women’s boom’ in contemporary Japanese literature. Her collection, Shinanoka (Tokyo, Shichōsha, 2004), or, Is It Poetry? earned Hirata the Hagiwara Sakutarō Prize for poetry.
Eric E. Hyett and Spencer Thurlow are a poetry translation team from Massachusetts. Their first translated book, Sonic Peace by contemporary female Japanese poet Kiriu Minashita (Phoneme Media, 2018), was shortlisted for the 2018 National Translation Award and the 2018 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize. Their translations and essays have appeared in Granta, The Georgia Review, World Literature Today, Modern Poetry in Translation, Pendemics, Transference, and The Cincinnati Review.